This week one of my students was having a tricky time with the rhythms in Seitz Concerto No. 2, movement 3, so I thought I'd go ahead and share the practice video that I made for her with everyone.
I can still remember my own struggles with this piece, as a child. I couldn't wait to play it; I'd heard other kids play it, and wow, I loved the way the beginning just seems to leap into the air! I was less familiar with the other parts of it, as I was not a Suzuki student and had no recording. I still remember arriving at the second page of the piece and actually pitching a fit of frustration -- yes, there were tears. Fortunately, with help from my teacher, I figured out the rhythms and went on to give my huge debut -- a performance in the school gymnasium!
I'm not the only student who ever bumped up against a wall in this piece. What makes it so challenging? I'd argue that more than the notes, it's the rhythms. There are two sections that are particularly tricky, and this video gives some play-along ways to practice each one:
Why are these sections difficult? First of all, this piece is in 6/8 time, and often students have not encountered this meter much before playing this piece.
Take for example, measures 48-68:
Though we are in 6/8 time, we have a hemiola - a little rhythmic trick in which 123-456 takes on the feel of 12-34-56. Basically, those six eighth notes get divided into three groups of two for just a measure, and then they go back to being divided into two groups of three.
If you are practicing without complete precision, without truly addressing the questions of rhythm, you can start feeling it in a vague and lopsided way that won't really fit, once you put it with the eighth-note accompaniment. The solution, for your brain to get all these divisions clear, is to simply play the entire passage in eighth notes, which is what I've demonstrated.
The next example is measures 68-83:
This is a similar problem with a similar solution. The problem here is not really about a hemiola, but more about the bow vs. the fingers. Very often, rhythm is felt in the movement of the bow. In this case, however, everything is slurred! The bow is quite passive, in regard to the rhythm: in effect, it's just playing dotted quarter notes, with a few string changes thrown in. The left fingers, on the other hand, must keep time with perfect clarity. Playing this passage with all sixteenth notes forces the left hand to do this in a very precise way. Another good way to practice this passage, once the rhythm is clearly in your brain (or your student's brain) is to "play" it without the bow, just listening to when the fingers go down and feeling that rhythm in the left hand.
I hope you have found these exercises helpful, feel free to share with any teachers or students that might use this, and also share your practice techniques in the comments below. Happy practicing!
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